NFL Week 11 Recap: Eagles disappoint, Panthers and Pats keep rolling
By Roger SinClair
Jaguars 19 Titans 13
The Jaguars surprisingly are in the thick of the AFC South title race, and with this Thursday night home win move to 4-6 on the season. Prized offseason acquisition Julius Thomas finally had the impact that Jacksonville was hoping for, catching the game winning touchdown from Blake Bortles. The Jags next three games are against the Chargers, Titans and Colts. None of them appear to be unwinnable games. This young Jacksonville team continues to take strides toward success and look like the most complete team in the AFC South (never thought I’d be saying that). Tennessee, fresh off an unimpressive game against the Carolina Panthers, had a chance to win this game late until Marcus Mariota was sacked in Jacksonville’s territory to end the game. The Titans fall to 2-8 on the season, but on the bright side the team has played three consecutive games competitively after Ken Whisenhunt was fired as head coach. This season appears to be lost for Tennessee, who appear to be in full rebuilding stage. However, they could make this AFC South race much more interesting by getting some big upset wins against their division rivals in the coming weeks.
Texans 24 Jets 17
A battle of two teams heading in opposite directions, this contest in Houston was far more lopsided than the final score indicates. New York, now losers of four out of five games, looked anemic on offense and were not able to get the job done on 3rd down, as the team finished 3/14 on third down. Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled without an effective running game (the leading rusher only had 36 yards) and his surgically repaired left thumb seemed to bother him the entire game. Regardless, Fitzpatrick finished the game with interceptions on back-to-back possessions and both appeared to be caused by poor decision making. The Jets face the Dolphins and Giants in their next two games, and the way that this team is playing it would not be surprising if they dropped both games. Houston continues to amaze the football world. Winners of three straight, the Texans can even win games with a quarterback they picked up off the streets a month ago. Bill O’Brien has his team tied for 1st place in the AFC South and looking outstanding. The pressure will be on, however, as they finish the season with three straight divisional games. On top of that, their next three games are against New Orleans, Buffalo and New England. It’ll be interesting to see how the Texans react to such adversity.
Rams 13 Ravens 16
An incredibly costly win for the Ravens and a questionable loss for the Rams, this game could have decided both of these teams’ fates. First, I think it’s safe to officially say the Ravens’ season is over. Running back Justin Forsett suffered a gruesome broken arm that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season. While this injury hurts their season, Joe Flacco’s injury could hurt the franchise. Flacco tore his ACL on the final drive of this game, and it is believed that further structural damage could be revealed. A crushing blow for a quarterback who has started every game since his rookie season in 2008. Despite the win, the RB-QB tandem of Javarious Allen and Matt Schaub simply don’t strike fear in the hearts of defenses. Case Keenum got the start for the Rams, with Nick Foles looking unimpressive this season. However, on St. Louis’s final drive, Keenum hit his head hard on the turf and immediately grabbed his head and had trouble standing up. Usually, that would have team doctors running onto the field and giving that man a concussion test. Shockingly, Keenum stayed in the game! Two plays later, Keenum held onto the ball for too long, leading to a turnover on a fumble and eventually the game-winning field goal. Jeff Fisher obviously has no faith in Foles and would rather have a concussed quarterback in than a healthy Foles. At 4-6, the Rams appear to be out of a tight NFC wild-card race. Both of these teams can probably safely say 2015 is a lost cause.
Raiders 13 Lions 18
Detroit earned its second straight win and now heads into its Turkey Day game against the Eagles at 3-7. Jim Caldwell looks keen on keeping his job, as the Lions’ defense has looked impressive in recent weeks and earned wins over the Packers and Raiders. Matt Stafford was vital in this game, as he limited bad decisions and was able to avoid pressure multiple times by scrambling for 31 yards on the day. Still without and effective running game and competent secondary, the Lions were able to squeeze out a win at home. Oakland, on the other hand, has lost three straight games and the massive amount of hype surrounding their 4-3 start seems to be fading. Derek Carr threw for a mere 169 yards and no scores (utterly destroying my fantasy team) and Latavius Murray mustered up only 28 yards on the ground. A loss on the road to Pittsburgh seems reasonable. A blowout loss at home to the Vikings started raising questions. A loss to the hapless Lions is inexcusable. If Oakland wants to be taken seriously, they must be able to correct mistakes week-to-week. Three of Oakland’s next four games are against the Chiefs, Broncos and Packers. Barring huge corrections in their game plan, Oakland’s impressive start to their 2015 campaign will fade away.
Colts 24 Falcons 21
Matt Hasselbeck is 3-0 as the starter for the Indianapolis Colts this season. If that doesn’t shock you, I’m not sure what will. The 40-year-old quarterback lead the Colts on a 4th quarter drive the culminated in a 43-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri for the win. Hasselbeck connected with Ahmad Bradshaw for two touchdowns and made enough plays to make up for his two interceptions. While it would be easy to look at the 5-5 Colts and have serious doubts about the season ahead of them without Andrew Luck, the team plays very well in his absence. The Colts currently sit at 1st in the AFC South and could stay there if they play like they have the last two weeks. The Falcons fall to 6-4 after a 6-1 start and have dropped games to Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Indy. The team twice had a 14-point lead and squandered the game with a gluttony of turnovers. Matt Ryan threw three interceptions on the day, one of which was returned for a touchdown by D’Qwell Jackson. Atlanta finished last season 6-10, so despite their three straight losses they have already been better than they have been in recent memory. The Falcons take on the Vikings next week, followed by three straight road games. It wouldn’t be surprising if this team finished .500 on the season.
Broncos 17 Bears 15
There is a full-blown QB controversy in Denver. In Sunday’s 17-15 win over Chicago, Brock Osweiler threw for 250 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly had zero turnovers. Gary Kubiak must be hoping Peyton takes his time in recovery as Osweiler looked poised against the Bears. Denver finally got their running game going, with Ronnie Hillman rushing for 102 yards and CJ Anderson adding 59 to the ground game. With Peyton Manning leading the NFL with interception (17), there is a serious question as to whether or not Manning will return from his foot injury as the starter. Osweiler has already been named starter next Sunday night against New England, and its hard to imagine if he gets the job done that he doesn’t stay the starter. The Bears fall to 4-6 on the season, more surprisingly 1-4 at home. Jay Cutler was cooled off in the chilly Chicago weather, as he finished with no touchdowns and an interception on the day. It’s hard to put all the blame on Cutler though. His starting receivers for Sundays game were Marc Mariani and Marquess Wilson and he was without Matt Forte for a third straight game. It doesn’t get much better for the Bears, as their next game is Thursday night against the Packers.
Buccaneers 45 Eagles 17
It’s hard to blame this game on the absence of Sam Bradford. Jameis Winston tied a rookie record with five touchdown passes and Tampa Bay scored their highest point total in a game since 2001. Winston wasn’t the only Bucs player to shine on Sunday, as Doug Martin ran for 235 yards on 27 carries. Martin’s performance on Sunday adds to an impressive season so far, where he might be playing himself into an extension with the Bucs. Stud linebacker Lavonte David nabbed two interceptions, one of which he returned to the house for a touchdown. The Eagles sputtered with Mark Sanchez at the helm (surprise surprise). Sanchez threw three interceptions. Possibly more confusing was Chip Kelly making Sanchez throw the ball 41 times, in comparison to only 26 running plays for the team. Sanchez historically has demonstrated inability to be the focal point of an offense (i.e 2011 with the Jets and last year with the Eagles), however Chip still didn’t alter his system for Sanchez. The Eagles defense hasn’t been the same without rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks, and they easily had the worst game of the season on Sunday. While they are still only one game behind the NFC East leading Giants, Eagles fans aren’t pleased after Sunday’s performance and are hoping to stop Detroit’s winning streak Thursday against the Lions.
Cowboys 24 Dolphins 14
Tony Romo’s return to the Cowboys meant a big road win to end an atrocious 7-game losing streak. Romo wasn’t perfect, finishing the game with two interceptions, but with him at the helm of the offense the Cowboys looked like a much scarier team. Romo hit Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant for touchdowns and added competence to the Dallas passing game. Darren McFadden also put together an impressive performance with 129 yards on the ground. Rolando McClain added an interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Ryan Tannehill continues his regression this season and looks very uncomfortable without Joe Philbin as head coach. Tannehill threw for 188 yards, two scores and an interception. Miami’s running game looks absolutely pathetic, and it seems that coach Dan Campbell agrees. The Dolphins only ran the ball 14 times, and appear to have no faith in the running game. It will be interesting to see their offensive strategy against a tough New York Jets defense. Back to Dallas, the Cowboys host the Carolina Panthers next Sunday and oddly enough they are actually one point favorites. I think it would be shocking if the 3-7 Cowboys beat the 10-0 Panthers, but we’ve seen crazier things happen.
Washington 16 Panthers 44
Kirk Cousins, the NFL’s ultimate Jekyll and Hyde quarterback, struggled a game after a perfect quarterback rating as Washington was utterly embarrassed by the Panthers. Cousins struggled to get Washington’s offense going on Sunday, but it’s hard to blame him when the team finished with 14 rushing yards. Washington also turned the ball over five times, which is inexcusable when playing a tough team like Carolina. Dropping to 4-6, Washington faces a similar situation to the Eagles. Both teams are only one game behind the Giants for the NFC East lead, however Washington’s fan base probably isn’t feeling too happy after this game. Another interesting note was Washington’s Jason Hatcher stating that the refs have been calling games unfairly because of the team’s derogatory name. Regardless, the refs didn’t decide a game that Carolina won by four touchdowns. Speaking of the Panthers, Cam Newton was firing on all cylinders on Sunday. Newton finished with five passing touchdowns and improved the Panthers record to 10-0. With the only non-divisional games remaining on the Panthers’ schedule being against the Cowboys and Giants, the Panthers could be serious contenders for a 16-0 season. We’ll have to see if Dallas can spoil Cam Newton’s season on Sunday.
Chiefs 33 Chargers 3
The Chargers nightmare season only got worse with this blowout loss to Kansas City. Longtime trusted partners Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers got in a heated sideline argument in this one, and at 2-8 it would be surprising if the Chargers didn’t have massive offseason shakeups. Rookie Running back Melvin Gordon had only 37 rushing yards and has averaged 3.5 yards a carry this season. More shocking though is his zero touchdowns the entire season. For a team that let Ryan Mathews walk, the Chargers have been hurt by lack of production at tailback. The Chiefs are surpsingly at 5-5 after a putrid 1-5 start to their season. Journeyman Spencer Ware had two rushing touchdowns in this game, and Defensive tackle Dontari Poe becomes the heaviest player to ever score a touchdown (quite the loaded stat). Alex Smith has turned his season around and has demonstrated his ability to get the offense working despite losing Jamaal Charles for the season. With winnable games against Buffalo, Oakland and San Diego coming up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chiefs make a push for the last AFC Wild Card spot.
Packers 30 Vikings 13
Green Bay broke its 3 game losing streak and exposed the Vikings’ one-dimensional offense. Aaron Rodgers was far from perfect, completing under 50% of his passes and still struggling with communication and drops from his receivers. The difference for the Pack in this game was Eddie Lacy finally performing. Lacy had 100 rushing yards and passed James Starks on the depth chart with an impressive performance against the Vikings stout rushing defense. Heading into their Thanksgiving game against the Bears, the Packers have to be pleased about their offense and defensive performance against the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater was battered and brusied in this game, getting sacked six times and hit countless other times. Adrian Peterson was held to 45 rushing yards, and the catalyst of this Minnesota offense was a nonfactor all afternoon. The Vikings have to have a short memory, as their next three games are against the Falcons, Seahawks and Cardinals. Sitting at 7-3, the Vikings have to perform well in these games if they hope to be a legitimate playoff contender.
49ers 13 Seahawks 29
Not much to cover here, as the Seahawks wish they could play the 49ers every week. Rookie Thomas Rawls dominated this game with 209 rushing yards and a score, helping the Seahawks offense look somewhat competent without workhorse Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson had a very good game, tossing three scores on the Niners. The aforementioned 49ers, who recently placed Colin Kapernick on injured reserve, look unable to survive without his running threat. The team could only muster up 59 rushing yards and were wildly one dimensional on offense. San Francisco is heading in the wrong direction, and they most likely won’t get back to their winning ways with their next game being against the NFC West leading Cardinals.
Cardinals 34 Bengals 31
Sweet Sweet Revenge! Carson Palmer was finally able to stick it to his former team, and led a ferocious last minute drive to set up the game winning field goal. Palmer threw four touchdowns on the night, but that came after throwing two interceptions with some early game jitters. Rookie JJ Nelson had a monster game, with 142 receiving yards and a touchdown. Ole reliable Larry Fitzgerald had 90 yards on eight receptions and was pivotal to the last drive of the game. Interesting call at the end of this game, as Bengals DT Domota Peko was penalized for simulating play calls and causing the Cardinals to false start. A weird penalty, but still a no-no in the rule book. Whether Cincy likes it or not, the stigma of losing big games at night continues. Marvin Lewis falls to 8-18 in Primetime and “Primetime Andy” loses another one. The Bengals have dropped two straight games, and with Pittsburgh breathing down their necks the heat is on to get a positive result against the Rams next week. The Cardinals look to build their NFC West lead next week when they travel to San Francisco.
Patriots 20 Bills 13
New England stays undefeated as not even Rex’s smack talk can end their winning streak. It was not a pretty win, but nonetheless Tom Brady and Company sweep the season series against the Bills. Running back James White scored his first two career touchdowns, which proved to be New England’s only of the game. Danny Amendola made up for Julian Edelman’s absence by leading the team with 117 yards receiving. You have to feel bad for Buffalo, as they played a near perfect game. However, a bad drop by Lesean McCoy in the endzone for a huge touchdown and a missed field goal hurt the team big time. Buffalo simply made too many mistakes to come away with a win in this game. It only gets more rough, as Buffalo plays two teams on big winning streaks in their next two games; next week against the Cheifs and the following week against Houston. New England plays a huge game against Denver next week and will be looking to make up for a poor offensive night against the Broncos.